A ruling that emerged from a powerful federal appeals court in Washington on Wednesday morning is strong evidence that the courts are unlikely to be receptive to President Donald Trump’s claims that he and his political supporters are being silenced by social media platforms like Twitter.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit resoundingly rejected a lawsuit the conservative legal organization Freedom Watch and right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer filed in 2018 against four major technology companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple.
Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have banned Loomer, citing anti-Muslim statements.
The unanimous court decision from a three-judge panel runs to only four pages, but is dismissive of a wide range of legal claims some conservatives and liberals have leveled at social media firms in recent months.
The appeals court judges said that, despite the companies’ power, they cannot violate the First Amendment because it regulates only governments, not the private sector.
“Freedom Watch’s First Amendment claim fails because it does not adequately allege that the Platforms can violate the First Amendment. In general, the First Amendment ‘prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech,’” the court said.
“Freedom Watch contends that, because the Platforms provide an important forum for speech, they are engaged in state action. But … ‘a private entity who provides a forum for speech is not transformed by that fact alone into a state actor.’ … Freedom Watch fails to point to additional facts indicating that these Platforms are engaged in state action and thus fails to state a viable First Amendment claim,” the judges added.
The court decision was released as Trump mounted an intense flurry of attacks against Twitter, after the social-media messaging firm took the unprecedented step of attaching fact-checks to some of his tweets about potential fraud in vote-by-mail programs being rolled out to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect,” Trump complained Tuesday on that very platform. [Continue reading…]